Paimpol Chant de Marin is one of our favourite summer festivals and a great excuse to sail around the Isle de Brehat and into the Gulf of St Malo. The British call it Paimpol Shanty Festival but it is much more than just sea shanties or fiddle music. Think Glastonbury Festival with Boats. The musical roots of many countries from Brazil to Lithuania, Russia to Ireland come together for an incredible mix of nautical culture, wooden boats, music and dance. Regular guest crew who have been to the festival before, skippers and all lovers of traditional music and street theatre eagerly await the voyages that feature this 2 yearly festival.
The next Paimpol Shanty Festival is in 2019 over the weekend of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th August. Scroll to the bottom of the page for relevant voyages.
Paimpol Harbour - Nautical Tradition
Paimpol was home to a big fleet of deep sea fishing boats that sailed all the way to Newfoundland Grand Banks. Many fishermen didn't return so there is a melancholy to some of the Breton shanties that sailors around the would would understand. The jolly Breton dancing and more up tempo brass Omph pa bands and jazzy saxaphones make up for the late night sad songs.
On the mainland the historic port of Paimpol is a busy fishing port popular with visiting tourist boats as they enjoy the many restaurants and bars. Paimpol provides a warm welcome to a traditional wooden ship and her crew and you are guaranteed to enjoy the french hospitality shown to you. If it is festival time, over 200 boats with wooden masts fill the main harbour basin and you can almost walk across the middle on boats rafted together.
Music Venues and Impromptu Sessions
Biannually, Paimpol hosts an amazing Sea Shanty Festival The French, and the Bretons in particular, are very proud of their seafaring roots and their festivals are full of life, fun and music. Many young people are involved and musicians and sailors come from all over the world. You might hear Polish Polkas or Brazilian drum bands as well as Breton Pipes playing more familiar shanties. Paimpol Festival is a well kept secret and eagerly awaited every two years by those who know about it. In terms of setting this shanty festival is in the perfect venue as it provides moorings for a whole host of visiting yachts and ships. The lock basins are right in the heart of the village with outside cafes and bars all around. The dock provides a natural focus and the organisers arrange the traditional boats and tall ships like a scene from 200 years ago. All grouped together there is a great atmosphere of camaraderie and meeting new similar like minded wooden boat enthusiast feels like one big family.
Sailors Know How to Party
Traditionally sea shanties and folk songs can be rather sad telling stories of lost loved ones out at sea. You won't be crying in your wine or calvados for long as there is folk and world traditional music and dancing all around. Having a large number of sailors in the audience - including yourselves - who have actually sailed their traditional wooden vessels to the festival, gives a real purpose to the festival. Shanties were working songs for sailors and you will have earnt your excuse for drinking beer and singing badly by hauling on blocks and tackles, standing on watches overnight as you cross the Channel on your voyage.
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